April 14, 2011

The Freedom From Religion Foundation lacks standing to challenge the President's proclamation of a "national day of prayer."

And so, probably, does everyone else, says the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals (PDF). A "feeling of exclusion" or "alienation" is not the "injury in fact" required by Article III of the Constitution. The panel distinguished cases involving a religious display that induced plaintiffs to What did provide standing, we held, is that the plaintiffs "alter[] their daily commute...incurring costs in both time and money."

We talked about this case a year ago when the district judge, Barbara Crabb (here in Madison) issued an injunction barring the proclamation, saying "the government has taken sides on a matter that must be left to individual conscience." The new decision doesn't reach the merits of the case; standing is a threshold issue. But you can tell what the court thought of the Establishment Clause question:
A President frequently calls on citizens to do things that they prefer not to do—to which, indeed, they may be strongly opposed on political or religious grounds.... [No] (sensible) person [would]  suppose that a court could take a blue pencil to a President’s inaugural address or State of the Union speech and remove statements that may offend some members of the audience. President Lincoln’s second inaugural address, likely the greatest speech ever made by an American President, mentions God seven times and prayer three times, including the sentence: “Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away.” The address is chiseled in stone at the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall. An argument that the prominence of these words injures every citizen, and that the Judicial Branch could order them to be blotted out, would be dismissed as preposterous.

The Judicial Branch does not censor a President’s speech....

49 comments:

G Joubert said...

The Judicial Branch does not censor a President’s speech....

There's the separation of powers issue, and then there's Barack Obama's personal 1st Amendment rights too.

Michael K said...

The religion of atheism requires periodic professions of faith in public. This is one of them.

Gordon Freece said...

Seems to me the Devil would have standing, if he can be located.

And if he can't be located, hallowed folk wisdom seems to dictate that any lawyer is qualified to speak for him, with the possible exception of Dan'l Webster.

So the FFRF may not have standing, but their lawyers do.

That having been said, it makes me queasy as hell when politicians get tangled up in religion in their professional capacities. For this nonsense, Obama deserves to be locked in a room with Mike Huckabee until mutual disgust drives both of them to a proper sense of public decorum in spiritual matters.

shoutingthomas said...

What is with all this hurt feelings crap? Why do we waste our courts and our money on the professional offense takers?

Sorta like the NBA fining Kobe Bryant $100,000 for calling a ref a "faggot.

It appears the choice is for the society to be held hostage by the sane and religious, or by the insane and secular.

I vote for...

When does the 60s end?

TMink said...

These fragile atheists need to buck up and learn to be more robust and healthy in their beliefs. The poor dears.

I will pray for them.

Trey

t-man said...

Bad link to the Court of Appeals decision.

In looking at Crabb's bio, I found it particularly unimpressive. How did she get her appointment to the district court?

She also seems to have timed her taking of senior status so that a Democratic President would appoint the new full-time judge.

Revenant said...

I can see ruling that a national day of prayer doesn't run afoul of the first amendment -- I disagree, but it is at least consistent with precedent.

But ruling that Americans don't have standing to challenge government behavior on Constitutional grounds is appalling to me.

Chuck66 said...

Atheism is the only religion (well, along with radical Islam) that requires the destruction of all other religions.

Ann Althouse said...

"Sorta like the NBA fining Kobe Bryant $100,000 for calling a ref a "faggot.""

But it's not like that because the NBA is a business venture, Bryant agreed to a contract that bound him to do various things in the interest of that business, and muttering "faggot" hurt the reputation of the sport. Let somebody else play if you don't want to follow the standards of the business you work for.

Ann Althouse said...

The equivalent for the President would be to vote him out of office if you don't like what he's saying. (But note that he was following a statute that required him to proclaim a national day of prayer, so you'd have to vote in members of Congress who'd repeal that statute or vote for a President who would defy it).

Ann Althouse said...

Sorry about the botched link. Fixed.

Revenant said...

Atheism is the only religion (well, along with radical Islam) that requires the destruction of all other religions.

Are you trolling or just stupid? I'm curious.

shoutingthomas said...

...muttering "faggot" hurt the reputation of the sport.

Did you read my bit? I would argue with this. I would argue that, in fact, this changes the ground rules for the sport, and makes gays a special protected class.

Name calling of the most vulgar and mean spirited kind has always been the standard for men in sports. The idea is to throw your opponent off his game.

When I played competitive sports, my opponents commonly suggested that my mother was a whore and that they were going to participate in a gangbang of my sister later in the evening.

You'd outlaw that, too?

What's so special about homosexuals that we've got to make special pets out of them? They can't just take in on the chin like the rest of us?

shoutingthomas said...

They can't just take in on the chin like the rest of us?

No puns allowed, Tight Ass.

AJ Lynch said...

Lawyers have the golden touch. They turn the dumbest shittiest issues into a paycheck.

DADvocate said...

A "feeling of exclusion" or "alienation" is not the "injury in fact" required,,,

Shucks. I feel alienated every time he opens his mouth. But, I've been praying a lot more since he took office.

Revenant said...

Name calling of the most vulgar and mean spirited kind has always been the standard for men in sports.

It has never been the standard for men in sports. It has been the standard for assholes in sports. It is common today only inasmuch as standards for personal behavior have declined.

Ever heard of good sportsmanship? That's the standard for men.

shoutingthomas said...

It has never been the standard for men in sports. It has been the standard for assholes in sports.

Ever hear of Michael Jordan? He was the king of vile insults and trash talk.

Revenant said...

Ever hear of Michael Jordan? He was the king of vile insults and trash talk.

And?

Ann Althouse said...

"Did you read my bit? I would argue with this. I would argue that, in fact, this changes the ground rules for the sport, and makes gays a special protected class."

I'm arguing with your analogy. Being in a contractual relationship that submits to a system of judging and penalties is different from holding a position of power that citizens attempt to intrude on by the use of the courts. I don't purport to say whether the NBA got it right, only that Bryant agreed to be bound by an agreement that gave the NBA the power to do this to him according to their judgment of what was in the interest of the sport. If the NBA didn't want to cave to pressure from interest groups it didn't have to, but Bryant already submitted to the NBA' judgment and he's paid well for it, so well that he has to be fined a hefty amount for it to matter to him.

Michael K said...

Ever hear of Michael Jordan? He was the king of vile insults and trash talk.


I think that's a language called Ebonics. In certain parts of many towns (but maybe not in Wisconsin) that's what you hear all day. For example, in Ebonics f**k is a comma. Also an adverb and an adjective.

shoutingthomas said...

And?

And, what's Jordan's status in the world of sports?

He's been reviled and banished, right?

Ann Althouse said...

"Name calling of the most vulgar and mean spirited kind has always been the standard for men in sports."

The NBA is protecting its interests and the controversy was hurting enough that it chose to act. If it thought viewers enjoyed "trash talk" it would have decided the other way.

shoutingthomas said...

The NBA is protecting its interests and the controversy was hurting enough that it chose to act. If it thought viewers enjoyed "trash talk" it would have decided the other way.

OK, I'm with you there.

But, I guarantee you that somebody on that court said the equivalent of this to another player on the same night:

Me and my homeys are going to be using your little sister for a pin cushion as soon as this game is over.

So, why go after the "faggot" thing and not after this? Was it just that Bryant got caught on a courtside mic?

My guess is that the NBA just went for the fashionable out. Gays have groups that bitch and moan about everything. They're the squeaky wheel, so they got greased.

Chuck66 said...

Revenant, can you be a bit more specific? I don't agree with either of the two choices. Either expand on your complaint, or give me more choices to pick from.

Revenant said...

And, what's Jordan's status in the world of sports?

If you want to change your story from "name calling of the most vulgar and mean spirited kind has always been the standard for men in sports" to "when you're making your bosses a lot of money, you can get away with acting like a prick on the job" I'll happily agree.

Revenant said...

Revenant, can you be a bit more specific? I don't agree with either of the two choices.

I guess that answers my question, then.

shoutingthomas said...

It's not just a Michael Jordan thing, or even a black thing.

Larry Bird was reputed to be a particularly vicious trash talker.

At my alma mater, the University of Illinois, Dee Brown was known to be a vile trash talker. And, he's probably the most revered athlete in the history of the university.

The attitude among most players, back when I was playing football, basketball and baseball was: If you can't take it, get the fuck out.

shoutingthomas said...

And, Althouse, here a secret among musicians:

Backstabbing and horrible name calling are just the common everyday realities of the music world.

Dylan, when he was young, was known to be the worst of the worst. Absolutely ruthless and utterly vicious.

Chuck66 said...

Reverant, are you a revevand in the Atheist church? Hopefully you don't come here to prothesize. I've never known an atheist you doesn't try to get converts at every opportunity.

But this isn't my blog so I will refrain from steering the discussion.

Gabriel Hanna said...

The ruling is right, I think. "Secular" government is not "secularizing" government. Nobody is required to pray on the day, and as long there's no proselytizing there's no harm, I think.

Gabriel Hanna said...

@MichaelK:

The religion of atheism requires periodic professions of faith in public. This is one of them.

Collecting baseball cards is a hobby. Is "not collecting baseball cards" a hobby? Is it the same hobby as "not fly fishing"?

"Atheism is a religion" is stupid on many levels. Like peeling an onion, you can get as stupid as you want.

Revenant said...

Reverant, are you a revevand in the Atheist church? Hopefully you don't come here to prothesize.

You have succeeded in further lowering my estimation of your intelligence.

Revenant said...

"Atheism is a religion" is stupid on many levels. Like peeling an onion, you can get as stupid as you want.

My favorite bit is "atheism requires the destruction of all other religions".

How's that work, I wonder? If I don't try to destroy all other religions, do I get kicked out of atheism? Damnit, I just paid my yearly dues to our secretive Athiest masters, too.

YoungHegelian said...

@GB,

"Atheism is a religion" is stupid on many levels. "

Yes, but how about "Atheism, like the faiths it claims to despise, makes metaphysical assertions about matters that are beyond human knowledge just as much as any faith."

Does that more "nuanced" translation help make the point?

LawGirl said...

It seems to me this decision has little to do with the establishment clause except insofar as it appears to abrogate the standing doctrine for cases brought under it. All a plaintiff has to do to manufacture standing is alter his or her behavior or at least claim it:

The panel distinguished cases involving a religious display that induced plaintiffs to What did provide standing, we held, is that the plaintiffs "alter[] their daily commute...incurring costs in both time and money."

SGT Ted said...

Yea they don't censor a Presidents speech. That would be evil and wrong.

They censor high school students speech. Because that's good and promotes diversity.

Quaestor said...

Michael K wrote: The religion of atheism requires periodic professions of faith in public.

The "religion" of atheism? Do you mean to say that an objective rejection of religion is a religion? Is it your claim that it is impossible to not have a religion? And if atheism is a religion what other heretofore supposedly non-religious systems are religions? Is physics a religion? How about French cuisine, can you reveal the dogma to us benighted heathens?

This reminds me of an incident from the 2000 census. I got one of the long form questionnaires which asked a lot of what I considered impertinent questions, such as how many toilets I owned. I left many questions unanswered, the ones I reasoned to be in one of more of the "none of your damned business" catagories and one which just flummoxed me -- religion. The form gave a check list of choices like Evangelical Protestant, Roman Catholic, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, and one fill-in-the-blank other. Huh? I could see no way to answer. It was like asking me what is the hair color on my other head; being a one-headed human the question doesn't apply to me. Therefore, being an atheist, the religion question similarly did not apply. I left it blank.

Incomplete replies are an anathema to the Census Bureau. About three weeks after mailing in the form I got letter admonishing me about my unlawful disregard of my duty to report to the census and a phone number to call if I wanted to avoid the possibility of prosecution. I called and a young woman eventually answered. She told me my honest and complete answers were required by law. I told her I was obliged by law to be counted, and that's all so count me and move on, please. Ignoring my protest she began to go through the questionnaire point by point. When she can to a question I has previously answered she read it back to me by way of confirmation, and it left blank she asked me to reply in a rather charming manner that eventually moderated my characteristically obdurateness. But when she came to the religion question I told her I had none, so she volunteered to but down "atheist" in the blank marked other. I objected. Atheism is not a religion, I said. You might as well put down "avid player of Quake II" in the blank as it makes as much sense as a reply. She said she agreed, but the form had some design problems and the Bureau had come with a policy of accepting "atheist" in lieu of "none." I replied, why not just accept a blank as "none?" She said they don't like blanks. I didn't get the long form in 2010, but I understand they fixed the form with a "none" choice.

Oligonicella said...

Michael K --

"The religion of atheism requires periodic professions of faith in public. This is one of them."

Those who make a religion of it.


Chuck66 --

Sorry to disillusion you Chuck, but atheism requires only being left alone. Don't spread FUD.


Here's a clue to all atheists and religious people: Every division of belief from absolute to absolute has its small percentage of whiners, haters and other versions of horrid persons - most aren't.

Quaestor said...

"Atheism, like the faiths it claims to despise, makes metaphysical assertions about matters that are beyond human knowledge just as much as any faith."

Sez who, and what metaphysical assertions, for instance?

Revenant said...

Yes, but how about "Atheism, like the faiths it claims to despise, makes metaphysical assertions about matters that are beyond human knowledge just as much as any faith." Does that more "nuanced" translation help make the point?

No, but it manages to be wrong in a slightly different way.

Problem 1: Atheism does not "despise", or "claim to despise", other faiths. Individual atheists may or may not, just as individual Christians may or may not hate Jews and Muslims.

Problem 2: Atheism makes exactly one claim: "There are no gods". So one could say that atheism requires as much faith as a religion with one and only one belief: "there are gods". The problem, of course, is that basically any religion you can name makes numerous faith-based claims beyond just that one -- claims about the nature of God, what God wants from us, why the world is the way it is, etc. So it takes considerably more faith to believe in a religion than it does to be an atheist.

Problem 3: While it is true, from a strictly logical standpoint, that in the absence of proof believing "X is true" and "X is false" require faith, that is not how the word "faith" is normally used. For example, believing that your mother is not a pine tree technically requires "faith", but who thinks that way?

On just about any topic EXCEPT religion nobody tries the "believing it isn't true takes as much faith as believing it is" schtick. Nobody thinks the claim "elephants frolic in my living room every day while I'm at work, but they always clean up after themselves and leave before I get home" is deserving of serious consideration, or that dismissing such a claim requires much in the way of mental effort.

Oligonicella said...

Chuck66 --

"I've never known an atheist you(who?) doesn't try to get converts at every opportunity."

If you've read this blog for any length of time, then your statement is axiomatically false.

Phil 3:14 said...

Do you need religion to pray?

Phil 3:14 said...

I am waiting for its name to be changed to the:

National Day of Good Thoughts

Quaestor said...

I wish to apologize for the numerous typos in my 3:13PM post. I blame the Nyquil I've been drinking to fight this damned cold which has had me down since the weekend.

Simon said...

If standing was not required by the Constitution, we would have to add it. So many nuisance lawsuits have shipwrecked on those rocks.

TMink said...

Well Rev, while you are full of the virtue of tolerance and forebearance, not all you Atheist compatriots are. The more evangelical of your band are really quite anti-religious and bigoted.

Trey

Revenant said...

Well Rev, while you are full of the virtue of tolerance and forebearance, not all you Atheist compatriots are. The more evangelical of your band are really quite anti-religious and bigoted.

Sure.

But there are over a hundred million Christians in America alone who are anti-atheist and bigoted, and few are shy about sharing those beliefs. So forgive me if I'm not rushing to worry about the negative influence of that handful of "atheist evangelicals". :)

Revenant said...

The clarify, I'm not saying all the Christians in America are anti-atheist and bigoted. But a good chunk of them are, judging from surveys of attitudes towards atheism and atheists.